The Globe and Mail reported today that the Liberals plan to honour all recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission including the recommendation to repeal s.43 of the Criminal Code. This section provides a defence to parents and teachers who use force against children for the purpose of correction. It is referred to as the corporal punishment (or spanking) defence. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recommended numerous times to Canada that it should get rid of this defence and ensure that children are protected in all places including their homes and schools from physical violence (Art. 19). As one of the lawyers who argued the constitutional challenge to this provision all the way to the Supreme Court, only to have the Court find that the provision neither discriminated against children nor breached their rights under section 7 of the Charter, I am heartened by this firm commitment from the government. The case is now over 12 years old and while the evidence was compelling back then that physical punishment of children caused them harm, the evidence is even more convincing now. As of this past week 48 states worldwide, with the recent addition of Peru, have prohibited the use of corporal punishment of children. You can read more about those changes at the Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment of Children website. Regardless of whether the social science backs the repeal, it is clear that we need to respect children and acknowledge the harms that such practices can cause. It is one of the sorry legacies of the residential schools system and a practice that can no longer be supported in law for any child. I am delighted by this news for children!
Cheryl Milne, Chair of the Board